21. While 21 is the drinking age, it’s also the number of candidates running to become Seattle’s next mayor — which could lead some observers to drink, as they try to keep track of them all.
This season’s Meeting to Connect is THE LAST FORUM FOR SEATTLE MAYOR.
You’ll receive your ballots soon, so it’s time to make up your mind to VOTE.
- WHAT: Last Mayoral Debate before August 1 primary
- WHEN: Monday, July 17 at 6:00 p.m.
- WHO: the leading Mayoral candidates and you.
- HOSTED BY: Seattle City Club, KING 5, KUOW, and GeekWire
- WHERE: your living room in Northeast Seattle with neighbors
- ATTEND: If you want attend the event live at the Impact Hub in Pioneer Square, CLICK HERE. If sold out, attend free viewing party at nearby Flatstick Pub.
- SUBMIT QUESTIONS: Complete City Club’s online form by CLICKING HERE. Or ask via Twitter by CLICKING HEREand using hashtag #SEAMayor.
- MORE INFO: There are not many debates left, so attend whichever you can. Another upcoming debate is sponsored by CIRCC for July 15: CLICK HERE.
To catch up on the race for mayor with articles from the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.
There are only a handful of candidates who have a chance to win and www.4toExplore.org is pleased to provide an exclusive interview with one of the leading contenders: Nikkita Oliver. (See below for our interview with her.) For an even more incisive interview of Nikkita Oliver, see Erica Barnett’s blog “The C is for Crank,” CLICK HERE.
Newspapers and TV stations have ignored several compelling candidates including Harvey Lever and Greg Hamilton. This upcoming candidate forum will also ignore many of them. But you can connect to all of their websites by CLICKING HERE.
More importantly, to see who is contributing $$$ to each of the candidates, CLICK HERE. Of course, the contributions from individuals directly to the campaigns are drops in the bucket compared to the massive Independent Expenditures that the Chamber of Commerce and their profit-motivated allies are pouring into the campaign of Jenny Durkan. We can only hope that Durkan will surprise her donors with her independence if voters select her.
PRIORITIES: What do you want to accomplish in your first 100 days in office as Mayor?
Nikkita Oliver: “The first thing – the most important thing — is a comprehensive housing plan. This affordable housing and homelessness crisis that we’re in…needs a plan that has a lot of foresight and a vision to address both immediate and long term concerns: Building housing, addressing rent stabilization, speculative capital, [and] a progressive income tax. Some will take years; some can be immediate. There are city properties we could leverage for transitional housing. We need to have conversations with people in encampments to ask about solutions that will work for them. Our city is at a really important time. Housing is connected to many other things: transportation, human services, revenue, density and development. One thing our city is really missing is a long term vision of where we want to go.”
NEIGHBORHOODS: Last summer, Mayor Murray stopped supporting the 13 Neighborhood District Councils that represent every neighborhood in Seattle. Do you plan on restoring that support and/or the District Council roles in distributing information to community councils, making recommendations for the city budget, and making recommendations for grants for neighborhood projects or will you keep his current policy in place?
Nikkita Oliver: “I want to say first that community input is incredibly invaluable. Without community input, bureaucracy just functions from top down…The neighborhood councils, while a good idea in some ways, were inherently flawed because they did not necessarily reach across constituencies… And so, while I do intend to have some sort of structure that creates very necessary and important space for neighborhoods and communities to directly to impact both policy development and implementation, I’m not sure going back to that model is going to be the most effective for the sort of input that our city most needs…So how can we learn from what happened from the neighborhood model in terms of what populations are accessing those models and then how can we evolve it and use preexisting networks to build ones that actually gather across constituencies to build better policy and implementation…I think we need to figure out how we leverage relationships, which is something I have the skills to do, I am a grassroots organizer and I’ve worked with nonprofits, I’ve worked with community centers and so I have a ton of relationships to bring to the table to develop a more equitable way to ensure neighborhoods have direct connection to the Mayor’s office and I think that’s important. I think the other thing is, as a Mayor, I will make myself accessible to communities. And that is about not simply doing town halls or “State of the City” addresses where I get to say and present my ideas, but it also means just going and sitting in spaces and listening to what communities are talking about and being available for the questions…”
REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT and GENTRIFICATION: During your campaign kickoff, you said, “We must stop giving developers a free ride…We have to counteract displacement…including our seniors — we have to take care of our seniors…Input must be included in a meaningful way…” Tell us more about this.
Nikkita Oliver: “When we look at how the ‘Grand Bargain’ was developed, when we consider who was at the table, it was mostly people who have corporate interests. It didn’t necessarily include homeowners. It didn’t necessarily include renters. It didn’t necessarily include people who have been pushed out of our city…The “Grand Bargain” allows developers to come in and build without considering their impact upon our community, and without actually investing in our community… It also means the City leveraging its resources to get involved in building housing and it means dealing with issues like speculative capital which are driving the market up. So I think we need a multifaceted response, but also meeting with people who live in the zones that are single family zones. Folks who tend to get called things to NIMBY, which I think puts folks in a box that doesn’t actually knowledge their real concerns. Which are, I bought my home here, I invested here, and my hope was that I could live here and my children could live here for the next 30 to 40 years. And, if you are a senior who bought your home 30 years ago and you’re living on a fixed income and property taxes are going up each year, you are actually very likely to be pushed out of your home. And we have to consider what that means for someone who has spent their entire life working to have a place to live and a place to retire. The flip side of that, we also have to deal with the fact that people are going to get paid to come into our city and with that means we need more density and we need more housing…And so what I’m hoping we can come to a consensus around putting the density more equitably around our city but also doing it smartly and, by smartly, I mean putting it in places that ecologically make sense, putting it in places that make sense transportation-wise, but also putting it in places that does not exacerbate the gentrification that’s already happened…So I think the developers who want to be in our city have a responsibility to our city and we need to be willing to ask them to be accountable…”
IMPACT FEES: Do you support having real estate developers pay “Impact Fees” as allowed by State law to help to fund new schools, fire stations, and parks?
Nikkita Oliver: “Absolutely. That infrastructure is essential to our city functioning well. It’s essential to the people who live in their buildings – to be able to live in a well –functioning city and I think that the developers are interested in having a city that functions well. And so impact fees are just a part of that…”
(For more on Impact Fees, CLICK HERE.)
RESPONSIVE GOVERNMENT: Do you believe city government leaders are focusing too much on national issues instead of the basics of local government?
Nikkita Oliver: “There are some national issues that have very real hyper-local impact. And I think those are the ones we should be focusing on.”
AFFORDABLE HOUSING: To produce new affordable housing, Mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) relies on upzones that require real estate developers/investors to pay into a fund for affordable housing (or to build a percentage of the housing onsite). The Mayor calls this “Mandatory Housing Affordability” (MHA). Percentages that must be set-aside range from 2% downtown to 9% in the U District. The affordable housing does not need to be built in the same neighborhood where the fees are paid. Do you feel that the 2% set-aside for affordable housing downtown and the 9% set-aside in the U District were sufficient?
Nikkita Oliver: “No, I don’t think it’s sufficient. That’s an area where lots of students live and I don’t think it is enough set-aside to ensure that students can live by their school.
“When I think about the 2% [set-aside] in [South Lake Union / downtown]…I want to see more of our city more equitably accessible than that. South Lake Union is a beautiful area. Wouldn’t we want more of our families, more of our people to have access to that housing?..We’re also seeing the city become more and more segregated where the center of our city is whiter and wealthier and the farther reaches of our city are browner and lower income. And that’s a problem…”
HOMELESSNESS: While the reportsfrom the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (under President Obama) show a decrease in homelessness in many cities throughout the country, it has increased in Seattle and King County. Why do you think homelessness is rising in Seattle while it is decreasing elsewhere?
Nikkita Oliver: “I think it goes back to the economic, equity issue…There are a lot of families who are homeless in the city – a lot of families who are constantly trying to find housing because of the constant rent increases. There are a lot of veterans. There are also a lot of mental health needs in our city. And so all of these things I think contribute to rising issues around homelessness. We have a major human services gap. And so when you have this kind of economic equity issue that we’re seeing here in Seattle, where the gap is not being met…I think we really need a holistic strategy. We need to think about jobs and opportunity. We need to think about educational opportunities. We need to think about housing. At one point in time, Boeing worked well with the city and our educational institutions to ensure there were pathways to jobs in Boeing, that there were pathways for low income folks, the people who might otherwise wouldn’t have accessibility to find ways to get into work. And when we look at how our city is growing, many of the jobs that are coming here are being filled by people who don’t live in the city. So I think the city needs to figure out how we broker relationships with Amazon and Microsoft and Google to ensure that our young people who are here have solid trajectories into those jobs and that our families have trajectories into those jobs…”
GOVERNMENT SPENDING: Do you have any ideas for reducing city government expenses / finding savings?
Nikkita Oliver: “Yeah, absolutely. We have a huge budget. $5.6 billion. We spend a lot of money on courts and police. And, in the court area, when it comes to Seattle Municipal Court. I don’t know how much you know about ‘quality of life crime’; these are crimes that are things that people get criminalized for simply because they’re poor. Say you get a parking ticket that you’re not able to pay and, over time, that turns into a suspended license. And then you’re not able to pay the ticket, the suspended license and then maybe you get a ticket for [driving with] a suspended license – over time these turn into criminal issues that a person was not able to address in the first place because they did not have the money to pay the ticket in the first place. And we’re becoming a city where cash-poor folks have to drive. If you’re being pushed to the far reaches of the city and transportation is not moving in lock step with development, then you’re driving and it’s very easy to get a ticket in Seattle. So figuring out how we cannot prosecute “quality of life crimes” is huge… Regardless of whether or not those charges resulted in conviction, just the charging process, and calling that person into court, filing of the paperwork, adds up to a substantial amount of money over time. I think sweeps [of unauthorized homeless encampments] — the number of sweeps we do, how we do the sweeps; if provided more services and services that people in encampments wanted and provided trash, water, places to dispose of needles to those encampments instead of doing these constant sweeps and focused on having 24/7 storage, and getting transitional housing together. We could actually decrease the amount we spend on sweeps and transfer it over to human services. When it comes to “quality of life crimes” those funds could go into a lot of other places to ensure that those people don’t end up in those situations because if we keep out those cycles of poverty, we’re actually going to make our city healthier – those are two places that we could cut.
“Also, I know that [Mayor] Murray had proposed hiring 200 more police. I could think of so many other things to do with that money that would actually decrease crime in our city and increase safety for everybody. I think it’s about looking at the places where we are spending money in ways that we don’t have to. Not only would it be more effective but, in the long run, it would be basically more responsible and amount to more efficient processes that benefit humans over systems.”
EDUCATION: Do you support expanding the high-quality Seattle Preschool Program so that it is available to all 4 year olds (universal preschool) and, if so, how would you pay for it and how quickly would you make it universal?
Nikkita Oliver: “Absolutely. Preschool is incredibly valuable for the development of every young person in our city. It’s also important for families to be able to become economically stable. If they know that there is high-quality preschool available to them. I think, in providing that, I think we need to think about how we pay our child care workers. We do not ensure that our child care workers are paid at the rate that they deserve. And if we’re saying that preschool education is important, we need to make sure we take care of our workers so that they effectively take care of our children. But, in the long run, supporting high quality preschool for all people in our city, is going to make our city much healthier.”
EXPERIENCE: When Mayor Murray was running for Mayor, he was criticized for his lack of experience as an executive running a large organization. Can you speak to your own experience and management style?
Nikkita Oliver: “I think what people fail to acknowledge about the role of an executive or anyone in the executive branch is that they’re only as good as their team. While they are the face of the decision and make the ultimate decision on a lot of things, our mayor is dependent upon having the most brilliant team possible because delegation is essential to running our city. Over 10,000 employees and a $5.6 billion budget, the mayor cannot know everything but [she] can know exactly, who they put in what places to do what jobs and can know that each of those people have the credentials and have the work experience to make that happen. You have to be able to trust your team. If you don’t trust your team what you’re going to end up doing is micromanaging your team. And people just simply don’t function well when they’re micromanaged… And part of what we’re seeing right now is that the mismanagement is really a micromanagement issue…they also don’t have the trust…their leash is too short. So my style of leadership and my style of management is really about ensuring I have the right people doing the right job with the right resources – and then trusting them to do that job and having a process of accountability and very high expectations and goals and metrics and vision to make that happen. And when those goals, those metrics, and that vision is actually served or not met, then you have to move into a conversation of accountability, which we are lacking in our current government structure…”
CONCLUSION: Is there anything else you’d like to add, specifically for the residents of Northeast Seattle?
Nikkita Oliver: “The only other thing I’d want to say to the people of Northeast Seattle: I want the communities there to know that I’ve heard quite a few people tell me how, especially the upper regions of our city feel at times they get ignored. And particularly around things like certain types of infrastructure — sidewalks, streets — human services…And I have heard many residents in Northeast Seattle say that they feel overlooked. And so I would love to do a listening post there. …I would love to sit with any neighborhood group and literally just listen…and allow communities to develop our platform…We’re actually in an incredible position to have these dynamic conversations that really develop the vision and community with people and we want to do that including with our neighbors and our communities in Northeast Seattle.” # # #